January 15, 2017
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. 30 He is the one of whom I said, 'A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.' 31 I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel." 32 John testified further, saying, "I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. 33 I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' 34 Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God."
This Sunday’s text is from John’s gospel and, while it does not actually describe the baptism of Jesus, it is the Baptist’s testimony of the meaning of the baptism—that it is a clear and trustworthy sign that Jesus is the long-awaited messiah. The text portrays John the Baptist as an eyewitness to the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus, and that the spirit of God told him that when those things happen, it is a sign from God that this person is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. The gospel is making the case that Jesus was, indeed, the long-awaited messiah.
People of the day brought their disputes to the elders of the community. Those on either side of the dispute would bring their “witnesses” who would, with great passion, present reasons for supporting the side of the person they favored. The side with the strongest witnesses in terms of number, status in the community, and passionate arguments usually carried the argument. John uses this familiar practice in the way he has composed his gospel. The witnesses he calls upon throughout his gospel are John the Baptist, Jesus’ own works, the Hebrew Scriptures, and God.
John the Baptist is a very important witness because of his reputation as a person who spoke the truth. In addition, there were those who wondered if the Baptist was the messiah. John describes John the Baptist this way: “A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.” (John 1:5-8) The gospel indicates that a great many people came out to be baptized by John. Those opposed to the idea of Jesus as the Messiah, the scribes and Pharisees, also opposed the Baptist and questioned his authority to baptize.
Right before the section that is the text for this Sunday, the evangelist reminds his community of this fact. “When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites (to him) to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ So they asked him, ‘What are you then? Are you Elijah?’ And he said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?’ He said: ‘I am “the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”’ Some Pharisees were also sent to John the Baptist. They asked him, ‘Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.’” (John 1:19-27) John the Baptist is a respected and powerful witness to the claim that John is making for Jesus as the Messiah.
1. Are you the kind of person who would like to have like John the Baptist give a detailed minute-by-minute account of what actually took place the day that Jesus came forward to be baptized?
2. What does it say to you that none of the gospels record that kind of account of Jesus’ baptism?
3. Twice in the text John admits, “I did not know him.” What is John saying? Why is it so important that the gospel record John saying it twice? Why is his saying this important to you?
4. How difficult do you think it was for the Baptist to admit that his cousin, Jesus, was a much more important and significant person?
5. Have there been times in your own journey when you had to admit that you were not as important as others (or you yourself) once thought?
6. How is the journey of self-discovery before God taking place in your life right now?
7. John says in the text; “…the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” Do you have as clear an understanding as to the purpose of your life?
8. In the next verse, John the Baptist says that he saw the Spirit come down from heaven and remain on Jesus. Where do you see the Spirit of God present in the lives of others?
9. In the last verse of the gospel text, John the Baptist states that he testifies to what he has experienced and seen. What is your experience of God working in your life? Are you called, in some way, to give testimony to God’s presence in the world?
On Wednesday of each week, the Gospel and reflection questions are posted at the following link: http://il-ritiro.org/gospel-reflections.aspx. You are invited to share your own reflection and comments with others at this website. The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To be added to the distribution list, send your name and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Excerpts from the readings for January 15, 2017, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Lord said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory.
Now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, the Lord says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I have waited for the Lord,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth, a hymn to our God.
Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, "Behold I come."
"In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!"
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O Lord, know.
(From) Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
to the church of God in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy,
with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
'A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'
I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel."
"I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.
I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
'On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God."
Excerpts from 1 Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-10; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; and John 1:29-34